The Secret Agent: Human Nature vs. Morality
“The surface of society, like that of the sea, is in perpetual motion; its depths, like those of the ocean, remain unmoved.” - Sir James Frazer
Kingdoms come and go; Empires rise and fall. Men achieve great power, and manage to lose it as quickly as they originally gained it. What causes this? What malevolent force can cause man to lose what they worked so hard for? Human nature. As old as mankind itself, it is something that is so deeply ingrained into us that we are often unable to shake its powers. Greed, lust, jealousy, vengeance and laziness have all led to the downfall of individuals, corporations and even empires. A small error can snowball into the inevitable ruin a man’s life or career, and can adversely affect those around him or her. Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent provides an excellent argument as to how human nature can lead to the downfall of those who succumb to its whims. Largely The Secret Agent is a comedy of errors, and we see the almost absurd ruin of Verloc who takes on a ridiculously ambitious terrorist job to blow up the Greenwich Observatory against his will. Unable to perform the job himself, he uses his wife’s naïve brother to plant the bomb. Unfortunately, the boy is blown up along the way. When Verloc’s wife, Winnie, learns of this, she is stricken with grief, and filled with rage. This leads to the eventual murder of Verloc. After the murder, Winnie planned on fleeing the country, but things went horribly wrong, and her suicide is the end result. The Secret Agent can be viewed as nothing but a tragedy; both of its major characters die a violent death and those that surround them were affected either on the same level, or to a lesser extent. The Secret Agent contains characters of varying moral values. On one end of the spectrum is Stevie, a simple, naïve boy who does not question the shady surroundings he lives in or the dubious people around him. On...
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